oolong tea benefits

There is nothing as relaxing as a cup of warm tea at the end of a long day at work. The four main types of teas are black, green, white, and oolong. Although oolong tea may not be as popular as the other teas(it accounts for only 2% of the world’s tea consumption), it is rich in nutrients and provides numerous health benefits. In this article, you will learn about oolong tea and its health benefits.

What is oolong tea?

Oolong tea is taken from the leaves of the Camelia Sinensis plant. Green and black teas also come from the same plant. The main difference between oolong, green, and black teas is the levels of oxidation and the method of preparation. Oolong tea is allowed to oxidize, while green tea is not. Black tea is oxidized, which gives it a black color.

Oolong tea has a mild taste, unlike black tea, which can be a little bitter. The flavor of oolong tea can vary from dark and rich to light and crisp, depending on the process of the creator. When you pick a particular tea also plays an important role. The tea that you harvest in spring has a fresh, springy taste. The tea that you select in winter has a more mature roasted flavor.

History of oolong tea

Oolong tea originated during the Tang Dynasty (618 to 7907) in the Biyun region of the Phoenix Mountain in Fujian Province. It was first known as Baiyun Tea, and because of its unique flavor, it was the first tea that was made a tribute tea in the Song Dynasty (960 to 1279).

During this time when the government officials, scholar, and monks began emigrating to the Fujian area, they were impressed with the ‘earth-stone’ taste of this tea from the Wuyi Mountains region. This tea came to be known as the Wuyi tea or the cliff tea.

Hearing about this wonderful Wuyi tea, the Emperor sent a un-fermented compressed Green Tea cake to Wuyi and asked for tribute tea. He received Dragon Phoenix Compressed Tea. This tea was made from a mold which imprinted the design of a dragon and a phoenix on the tea cake.

This tea then became very famous and continued to be designated as a tribute tea throughout the Ming (1368 to 1644) and Qing Dynasties (1644 to 1911). In 1725, the tea producers in the Anxi region of Fujian improved the method of making traditional Wuyi Tea with new technology and developed a new tea called oolong.  Oolong tea was later introduced to the Northern Fujian region and Taiwan in 1796. Today these areas are well known for its distinctive Oolong teas.

Nutrients in oolong tea

Oolong tea contains flavonoids, caffeine, theanine, and fluoride. Many of oolong tea’s health benefits are due to the presence of catechins, a particular type of flavonoid. Oolong tea also contains antioxidants like theaflavins, thearubigins, and EGCG. One cup of brewed oolong tea contains (1) –

  • Caffeine: 36 mg
  • Fluoride: 5 to 24% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 26% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 1% of the RDI
  • Sodium: 1% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 1% of the RDI
  • Niacin: 1% of the RDI

Health benefits of oolong tea

1. Reduces the risk of heart disease

According to a study from Japan, oolong tea consumption is associated with reduced risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease (2). Oolong tea also helps to stop the progression of atherosclerosis. During a study by Osaka City Medical School, 22 patients with coronary artery disease consumed 1000 ml oolong tea or water for one month. The patients that took oolong tea saw a significant decrease in the hardening and narrowing of arteries (3).

Studies have also shown that drinking just one or two cups of oolong tea can reduce the risk of ischemic stroke (4). Habitual oolong tea consumption (120ml/day for one year) can also significantly reduce the risk of developing hypertension (5). Another study from China found that consumption of oolong tea helps lower the risk of dyslipidemia. The study found that oolong tea consumption for a long duration helps lower total cholesterol, TAG, and LDL cholesterol levels (6).

2. Helps prevent diabetes

Drinking oolong tea regularly is an easy way to prevent diabetes. According to a review of several studies, people who drank 720 ml of oolong tea per day had a 16% lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes (7). During another study, when 20 type-2 diabetes patients took 1,500 ml of oolong tea per day for 30 days, they had markedly lower concentrations of plasma glucose (8).

However, some other studies have shown different results, and one report even suggests that oolong tea can increase diabetes risk (9, 10).

3. Helps in weight loss

Oolong tea is considered the go-to drink for weight loss thanks to its antioxidant content.  The polyphenols in oolong tea induce thermogenesis, which helps to improve metabolism (11). The catechins in oolong tea also help suppress the production of new fat cells (12). Oolong tea can decrease fat content and reduce body weight by improving lipid metabolism. Long term consumption of this tea can also prevent obesity (13).

4. Lowers cancer risk

Oolong tea also can help prevent certain types of cancers. This tea is rich in antioxidants like polyphenols and catechins, which are known to inhibit the growth of cancer cells caused by free radicals (14). Several studies have shown that tea drinkers have a lower risk of developing oral, lung, esophageal, pancreatic, liver, and colorectal cancer (15, 16, 17).

Although most of this research is based on green and black tea, oolong tea also provides similar benefits. According to a study from Ochanomizu University, Tokyo, Japan, oolong tea also has an inhibitory effect on melanogenesis (18).

5. Improves brain function

The antioxidants found in oolong tea improve memory and brain performance.  According to a systematic review conducted by Swinburne University, Hawthorn, Australia, drinking tea, which contains caffeine and L-theanine, improves attention levels, visual information processing, alertness and calmness within one hour of consuming the beverage (19).

EGCG, a polyphenol found in different types of tea, helps to improve the function of the hippocampus, a specific part of the brain that is linked to learning and memory (20). A 2010 study that involved 716 Chinese adults above 55 years showed that tea consumption leads to better cognitive performance. The protective effect of tea on cognitive function is not limited to a particular type of tea (21).

6. Lowers chronic inflammation

The antioxidants found in the food we eat are vital for removing free radicals that cause diseases. Dietary antioxidants are useful radioprotectors and play an essential role in preventing diseases like cancer, atherosclerosis, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, neurodegeneration, and diabetes. The antioxidants present in oolong tea target specific inflammation-causing genes and signal them to reduce inflammation (22).

7. Keeps teeth and bones strong

Fluoride is added to drinking water, toothpaste, and mouthwash to prevent dental cavities. Oolong tea naturally contains fluoride, which helps to strengthen the tooth enamel. Oolong tea also helps to keep the bones healthy. Tea contains chemical compounds such as caffeine, phytoestrogen, fluoride, which help to improve the bone mineral density.

A study from Taiwan compared 502 habitual tea drinkers with a mean duration of tea consumption of 10 years with non-habitual tea drinkers. The researchers found that frequent tea drinking as a beneficial effect on the bone mineral density of the total body, lumbar spine, and hip region in adults (23).

8. Reduces stress

The polyphenols in oolong tea provide a feeling of calm and help reduce stress. Oolong tea contains L-theanine, which is known to influence psychological and physiological states under stress (24). L-theanine stimulates the alpha waves in the brain, which are associated with a relaxed and focused state of mind. This tea also contains caffeine, which helps you to focus better.

9. Helps relieve eczema

Eczema is a condition that makes your skin red and itchy. Though there is no cure for this eczema, some over the counter medications and creams can decrease the symptoms. During a study by Department of Dermatology, Shiga University of Medical Science, Tsukinowa-Cho, Seta, Japan, 118 patients with severe eczema were asked to drink oolong tea made from a ten-gram teabag placed in one liter of boiling water and steeped for 5 minutes.

They then divided this tea into three equal servings, and one serving was drunk daily after three regular meals. All 118 of the patients showed a marked improvement in their condition at the end of one month. The researchers concluded that the therapeutic efficacy of oolong tea might be the result of the antiallergic properties of tea polyphenols (25).

10. Aids digestion

Oolong tea also helps improve digestion. This tea alkalizes the digestive tract and reduces inflammation in people with acid reflux and ulcers. Its mild antiseptic properties also help to clear out harmful bacteria. Its smooth flavor helps to soothe the stomach when it is consumed hot.

Side effects of oolong tea

Oolong tea is safe to drink for most people. However, if you are allergic to caffeine, you should avoid this drink. Caffeine can lead to anxiety, insomnia, and headaches when consumed in excess. Pregnant women should not consume more than 200 mg of caffeine in a day, so it’s best for them to lower their oolong tea consumption.

The flavonoids in tea are known to bind with iron found in plant foods and reduce their absorption. Researchers have found that young children who drank tea are more likely to have lower iron levels. Eating foods rich in vitamin C can improve iron absorption.

Final thoughts

Oolong tea is a partially oxidized tea that comes from the leaves of the Camelia Sinensis plant. It contains flavonoids, caffeine (although not as much as black tea), theanine, and fluoride, which provide it with many health benefits. This tea helps to lower heart disease, cancer, obesity, prevent diabetes, reduce inflammation, increase cognitive function, and improve skin and bone strength.